South Africa: E-Toll Bill Clears Hurdle

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Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Transport has approved the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill. The Bill was returned to the Committee last year to give the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) an opportunity to propose amendments.

The Bill, tabled in Parliament by the Department of Transport, was necessitated by the development of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) as well as future plans for the development of the country's roads infrastructure. The Bill will give effect to the appropriate implementation of Electronic Toll Collection.

After extensive consultations, which included oral presentations from the South African Local Government Agency (SALGA) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the Cmmittee felt that the Bill was ready to be taken to Parliament to be passed into law.

Meanwhile, the Committee was addressed by the Auditor General on the Department of Transport's overreliance on consultants. The Chairperson, Ms Ruth Bhengu, said the overuse of consultants was a concern to the Committee. "Before this study was commenced we had our own questions regarding the overreliance on consultants by the Department. While on oversight the Committee found that the use of consultants was at shocking levels. In the North West we found that 110 consultants were hired by the provincial department; in Kwazulu-Natal consultants even form part of the organogram of the department," the Chairperson said.

According to the AG the total expenditure of the Department of Transport on consultants between the 2008/09 to 2010/11 financial year amounted to R1.86bn. This included an escalation in costs of R936.2m in relation to the development of eNATIS which was did not form part of the original project.

The Auditor General highlighted general challenges among the eight audited departments. Some of the limitations highlighted include inadequate planning and appointment of consultants, the lack of performance management and monitoring, and effective closing of contracts.

The Committee is to meet the Department to account for its shortcomings and share its plans to remedy the situation.

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